Students Triumph in Summer Co-op Competition

The beat just keeps on flashing as UC-CEAS co-op students win the summer Co-op Challenge at Texas Instruments.

Date: October 19, 2011
By: Kelley Ujvary

Securing a co-op position with Texas Instruments, TI, is prestigious in itself but dominating theTI annual Co-Op Challenge really gains bragging rights.

This summer, Ian Cathey and Max Thrun, both Electrical Engineering majors, and Mark Labbato, a Computer Engineering major, worked for Texas Instruments in Stafford, Texas.  As student co-ops, they applied their UC education to real-world, hands-on experiences.  They then concluded their summer by winning the TI Co-op Challenge! 

The Texas Instruments Co-Op Design Challenge is an event that offers TI Summer Co-Ops an entertaining and creative competition designed to challenge their ingenuity. The event also offers a great opportunity to network amongst other TI co-op students and company personnel while the company gains a number of new projects & applications.


The table is "rockin" and flashing

“This year’s competition required us to utilize a value line MSP430 device in our design. There really were no limits as to what we could do but you could only work on a team of three or less. We just picked each other since we all lived together and that made it extremely easy to get the work done,” said Labbato.

The team created a coffee table - but not your average coffee table.  Their contest entry was a fully lit, LED table with an array of colorful lights flashing to the beat of any tune you choose.  To see the team’s project on 'Real Time Music Visualization' in action, click table rocks!

Over forty other students in fifteen groups competed this year to impress the voters who were fellow TI employees.  The reward?  A brand new iPad2 for each person!  Also, check out the competition page.

All three really enjoyed their summer experience.  Labbato was a returning TI co-op but Thurn and Cathey were new to Texas Instruments.

Thrun offered, “This was my first co-op with TI and I worked in product engineering.  The most rewarding part about my co-op was being able to work on tasks that were both critically important and would have a long lasting effect even after I left. The most challenging part for me was getting up to speed when assigned an unfamiliar task while at the same time knowing you have a deadline you need to meet.”


These wire leads connect to ...

Cathey stated, “This was my first term as well.  I was a product engineer in the Automotive MCU Division. We develop and maintain test programs that every single microcontroller has to go through before it is shipped.  The most rewarding part about my co-op was that the work I did was much needed and not just busy work. That same pressure was also the most challenging part since my team and business unit were depending on me.”

Labbato had an experience with different challenges as he was often interacting with TI customer requests and problems.  “This was my second term with TI.  I worked in the C2000 Product Applications group where my role was to help the full time engineers in their tasks in the development cycle of new devices as well as supporting legacy devices. I would say that the most rewarding and challenging part about my co-op experience was when I worked on critical issues. Just about everything I did while on assignment was used in some way. This included developing new test cases for validating a peripheral on new devices, finding critical hardware bugs and developing workarounds or answering customer forum questions.”

The real question now is – who gets the coffee table and to what beat is it flashing?